Here’s some scary news just in time for Halloween. The only grass carp in Ohio’s waters were supposed to be sterile. But research has just confirmed that some of the fish found in Ohio’s Sandusky River last year can reproduce. And they themselves came from natural reproduction in the Lake Erie basin.
Grass carp is a type of Asian carp. Like other Asian carp, it’s an invasive species. Invasive species are not native to areas where they cause problems. They can take over ecosystems by upsetting the balance of the native species.
Having watched way too many science fiction movies, I wondered whether this was like Jurassic Park. In that movie based on Michael Crichton’s novel, supposedly sterile dinosaurs at a theme park wind up being able to reproduce after all.
However, there’s no evidence of that. “It’s much more likely that fertile diploid fish were introduced into the system at a high enough rate for them to finally reproduce,” Duane Chapman at the U.S. Geological Survey says.
Chapman and other scientists at USGS and Bowling Green State University did the research that was just published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Diploid means that an organism has two sets of each gene in its cells. That’s necessary in order for sexual reproduction to take place.
Nonetheless, the news is still scary. The findings heighten fears that the species could upset the ecological balance in the Great Lakes.
“Grass carp breed like mosquitoes and eat like hogs,” says Kristy Meyer, a scientist at The Ohio Environmental Council. The research also suggests that even more destructive species of Asian carp could establish themselves in the basin.
That would be a real nightmare.
My last post castigated Biology Online for the actions of an employee who was totally wrong in making a slur against a woman who declined a project. This morning, I was glad to learn that Biology Online has done the right thing. It has apologized to Danielle Lee by email. It has posted a very public apology on its website. And it has fired the employee who made the slur.
Sexist remarks and slurs are serious. They insult the women at whom they are directed. They create a hostile work environment–even when that work environment is spread out among a network of freelancers and remote employees.
In a broader sense, sexist remarks and slurs hinder the general advancement of women among the ranks of professionals. People don’t often talk about the “glass ceiling” these days–the idea that professions may let most women rise only so high, but no higher. And as Elaine Wherry recently pointed out in a Wall Street Journal blog, people are often more subtle now.
Consequently, when slurs do surface, they cannot be tolerated. Otherwise, they reinforce the unseen barriers.
Biology Online’s response was the proper one from a legal perspective. It was also the right thing to do. I’d like to hope they’d have done the right thing even if the case hadn’t become very public. And we should all hope incidents like this don’t happen again.
Thanks to Wired for carrying this blog post: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/10/on-science-communication-respect-and-coming-back-from-mistakes/
It is NEVER appropriate for anyone in a professional position to call another professional a whore. That editor should be disciplined by his employer. And a very public apology–and perhaps even compensation–is due to the science journalist.
Genetics makes some people more likely to see things in a negative light. So says a new study by psychology professor Rebecca Todd at the University of British Columbia.
In the study, 200 people viewed a series of words in quick succession. Some words had positive connotations, some were negative, and others were neutral. Afterword, they were tested on what they had seen.
People with a certain gene variant, called the ADRA2b deletion variant, were more likely to perceive the negative words than those who did not have it.
In explaining the study results, Todd suggested that people with the gene variant might be more likely to focus on possible hazards outdoors rather than just enjoying the beauty of nature. Or, perhaps they might look out at a crowd and be more likely to notice angry faces.
Just as people talk about optimists seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, Todd suggests the gene variant could influence someone’s general outlook on life. “This is like seeing the world through gene-colored glasses—tinted a bit darkly,” she says.
Todd’s study notes that the gene variant has also been associated with having more intrusive memories after a traumatic event. The research might help explain why that happens. Ideally, it could help therapists who counsel people recovering from such events.
Nonetheless, I’m wondering if the results are really as dark as Todd proposes. In her study, people with and without the gene variant both perceived positive words better than neutral words. Maybe people with the gene variant are just better disposed to perceive a range of emotionally-laden things.
In any case, whether we have the gene should not predetermine how we respond to something. Every day, we’re likely to perceive something negative happening. However, how we respond is up to us.
Ignatius of Loyola alluded to this when he talked about everything in life being an opportunity to turn towards God for consolation or away from God in desolation. More broadly, it’s the concept of free will. Or, if you’re not religious, just think about it as having a choice.
Maybe genes do have something to do with what we perceive and remember. But I like to think I have a choice in how I act. The challenge is to choose wisely.
Sometimes journalists start out writing one story. Then the focus shifts.
Two weeks ago, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication released a survey on Ohioans’ attitudes about climate change. The article I initially started out to write would have led with the survey results. Then I would have put them in the context of what’s happening with energy policy in the state.
Then the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee met last week and began hearing testimony on a 90-page bill that would substantially relax what counts for the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. Now my article’s focus is on the terms of the bill and stakeholders’ responses to it.
The survey still matters, of course. And I discuss it in the context of the pending bill.
After all, while Bob and Betty Buckeye won’t vote directly on the pending bill, they will be deciding whether to re-elect various legislators or not. In the survey, a majority of Ohioans say they want more—not less—action from the state government to deal with climate change. Such actions would include reducing greenhouse gases with renewable energy and reduced energy demand.
Here’s the story as it appears in today’s Midwest Energy News:
Read it and decide what you think.